Michael, Expert by Experience

Living with gambling addiction: What can the financial services industry do to help?

6 January 2022

Most people have the view that gambling addicts are scruffy, older men sitting in betting shops all day spending their pennies on the horses and dogs. After experiencing gambling addiction for over 10 years and meeting many people struggling with this awful illness, let me tell you it affects everyone from all walks of society. With the increasing ease and social acceptance of online gambling and advertising in our lives, nobody is immune from this illness.


Putting on the brakes


I have been impressed with the response from the financial industry since I wrote to them all explaining my situation, and the excellent support I continue to receive from the NHS-funded National Gambling clinic. Immediately all interest was frozen on my accounts and I agreed manageable payment plans with each of my creditors individually. It may be many years before I can say I’m debt-free but this plan has given me breathing space to pay them back, without stopping me from living something close to a normal life.

Could this process be made easier with one source of communication to inform all financial service providers? It took me a long time to find out who I owed credit to, due to the nature of bad credit being sold to debt collectors and even now, one financial service provider is still unable to confirm who they’ve sold the debt to and who I should be paying back.

Flexibility both ways

New financial service providers have entered the fray and disrupted the traditional high street banks. Many of these were the first to introduce gambling blocks on gambling transactions to customers. This has been a great move and unsurprisingly the traditional high street banks have generally followed suit. However, with all providers I can however still take out lots of cash from an ATM daily. I’ve asked all my financial service providers to reduce my ATM limit and they all said it’s not possible. If I’m able to increase my ATM limit with a quick phone call, surely the technology is in place to also reduce my withdrawal limit?


The opportunity for change

Finally, I feel guilty that I owe financial providers so much money. While the gambling industry has taken all my money and has no ongoing requirement to support me, the financial service providers are left to pick up my problem for many years to come. The gambling industry is powerful but the finance industry is even more so. I urge them to use this review of the 2005 Gambling Act to put pressure on government and the gambling industry so that they are not left to pick up the pieces when people like me reach rock bottom.

I look forward to seeing how far reaching the changes to the 2005 Gambling Act are and encourage anyone who is concerned about their gambling to reach out for support before it’s too late.

If you’re in need of support with your gambling, you can contact the free National Gambling服务热线,24小时开放,电话:0808 8020 133。You can find more information here.

Over the last two years,Money and Mental Health has been exploring the opportunities for financial services firms to tackle gambling harm, funded by the Gambling Commission. Ourbest practice guide for financial services firmshighlights the key areas in which banks and building societies can make a difference to customers.Our 2021 conference can be watched back here.